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Jul 1 2014

I Left The Hasidic World But Now My Son Wants to Keep Kosher

By at 2:39 pm

Kosher-symbol

When my son was nearly 5, he and I moved to a new home. It was only 30 miles away, but those 30 miles changed everything. We left the insular Hasidic community of Kiryas Joel, and settled into a Modern Orthodox community in Rockland County, New York.

Although I was virtually alone, I was determined to remain connected to my past and remain observant. My commitment didn’t come from a particular religious belief, but from the strong resolve to stay connected–and help my son stay connected–to our network of Hasidic relatives. For my son, I believed, it would help nurture a relationship with his Satmar family.

But things didn’t go as I’d hoped. Staying religious as a full-time single parent meant spending Shabbat in our tiny basement apartment, waiting, waiting, waiting for the day to pass. My son also had trouble fitting into the religious community and, despite my best efforts to go to shul and participate in meals in the neighborhood, we felt shut out. It wasn’t from lack of effort on the community’s end. We simply didn’t fit: nothing of my socioeconomic situation as a struggling single mom belonged in middle-class Modern Orthodox suburbia. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 27 2014

I’m Thinking of Joining a Temple, But Am I Ready to Commit?

By at 9:59 am

joining-a-temple

My husband and I have been married for close to eight years, and up until our son turned 2, our attendance record at temple had been pitiful at best. But over the past six months, we’ve all been attending monthly Tot Shabbat services at a local temple, and we really like it there. The people are warm, the rabbi is great, and the programming so far seems to meet our needs. On more than one occasion, we’ve been given a nudge to consider joining, but it was only recently that I finally decided to request a membership info packet. I was all set to fill out the forms, send in my check, and call it a day, but then I realized that becoming a member of a temple carries a lot more weight than simply dealing with paperwork.

It got me thinking about the first time I decided to join a gym. I knew back then that I wasn’t just signing up to pay a monthly fee–I was making a real, actual commitment to go. Regularly. More so than that, I was making a commitment to my body, which meant eating right, getting more sleep, and embracing healthier habits. It really was a lifestyle change, not just a membership that came with a glossy card.

When I think about joining a temple, I’m faced with a similar thought process. To me, joining a temple is more than just having a random piece of paper lying around confirming my membership. I’m already committed to a Jewish lifestyle, but there’s one aspect I’ve yet to commit to, and that’s my local community. Read the rest of this entry →

May 2 2014

It’s Impossible to be Both a Parent & Perfectionist

By at 12:01 pm

messy-home

This post is part of our Torah MOMentary series. This Shabbat we read Parashat Emor. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.

Being a perfectionist is supposed to make you miserable. But to be honest, I always found it sort of fun–until I became a mother.

As the parent of a small human, though, perfectionism is out the window, along with every other fantasy of control over life.

I’m not even talking about the big, agonizing stuff. I’m talking about my living room. Read the rest of this entry →

The Special Tradition My Poppa Started That I Continue With My Own Grandchildren

By at 10:30 am

brass-candlesticks

One recent erev Shabbos (the night before Shabbat, Friday night) was special. My oldest granddaughter turned 3 and we had the opportunity to continue a family tradition through another generation.

On my own third birthday, my handsome, fun Poppa, who lived around the corner and whose delight in me I still remember and hold dear, brought me brass candlesticks so I could light Shabbos candles with my mother. I am the eldest grandchild, and he gave the same gift to each subsequent granddaughter at the same age. Although he often took us to Heshy’s Toy Store on the Lower East Side (which was to me the 1950s and 60s equivalent of Toys”R”Us), and insisted that we could buy “WHATEVER WE WANTED!” somehow, that gift of candlesticks was very special. I was a big girl, I learned the bracha (blessing) for the candles, and from then on, stood beside my mom each week, bringing Shabbos into our home.

When my own daughter, his first great-grandchild, turned 3, Poppa again appeared with his special gift. He did the same for my younger daughter. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 19 2014

The Kid-Dish: Madonna Wins Purim

By at 11:37 am

All the Jewish celebrity parent gossip you (n)ever wanted to know.

-Madonna totes won Purim this year by dressing up as the “Game of Thrones” Dragon mom Daenerys Targaryen. Then she posed with Jesus.  (Buzzfeed)

-Busy Philipps also did Purim with her daughters Birdie Leigh and Cricket Pearl, showing off her knowledge of the characters in the Purim story. On Twitter, the “Dawson’s Creek” actress wrote: “Today, my daughter’s preschool celebrated Purim and there were a lot of Queen Esthers that looked suspiciously like Frozen characters.” (Twitter)

-Jemima Kirke likes to do Shabbat with her “super-Jew” hubby and their daughter Rafa, as captured in this beautiful photo series of the “Girls” actress in her every day life. “We do Shabbat sometimes. Mike went to Yeshiva law school. He’s super-Jew and super-corporate. That’s why I was so attracted to him when I met him: the contradiction,” the photo is captioned. (NY Magazine)

-ScarJo debuted a teeny-tiny baby bump this week at the premiere of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” Read more about Scarlett’s many Mazal Tovs here(New York Daily News)

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Feb 27 2014

The Glamorous Housewife’s Guide to Shabbat: Cold Weather Comfort Food

By at 10:56 am

mom

Ever tried hosting your own Shabbat dinner and felt a touch… overwhelmed? Bethany from The Glamorous Housewife is here to help with her monthly how-to series on Kveller. Read last month’s Shabbat Dinner Guide here.

We are deep into winter and although many of us long for spring, the weather is still cold and comfort food is often what we all crave. Therefore I thought a traditional brisket would be a perfect main dish for this month’s meal. The recipe I use the most is via The Barefoot Contessa because I think it is quite easy and totally foolproof. My favorite part about this dish is it can be made the day ahead and then reheated in the sauce. My only tip is to not use brisket but to substitute with chuck roast. Chuck often has more fat than brisket and fat equals flavor and tenderness, so when you cut into it there should be no resistance and the meat will melt like butter! Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 21 2014

Since Becoming Pregnant, I’ve Given Myself Permission to Recline

By at 12:44 pm

permission-to-relax

The surprising thing about living on an island is just how much there is to do. Once my husband and I bought a house and made a long-term commitment to life on North Haven, we became a hot commodity. In addition to our jobs (teaching for me, plumbing and now programming at our community center for my husband), we serve in town government, volunteer with the ambulance crew, teach music lessons, and attempt to maintain a social life. I direct three or four plays each year, for which my husband either acts or does the sound design or both. I teach Pilates at the Y, and in the summer, ostensibly my time off, I open a small bakery and breakfast café.

That’s the way we like it. Neither of us is at our best with a lot of leisure time, and it’s not like there are a lot of places to go here to have a meal out or see a show. Typically if we have downtime at the same time we’ll go for a long walk, snowshoe, or kayak. Maybe we’ll learn a new piece of music or write and record a song. My workday ends at noon on Friday, and when I don’t have to get on the ferry for a prenatal checkup, I make a point of cleaning the bathrooms. Since sitting gets such a bad rap these days, with articles popping up all over the Internet claiming it’s as bad for you as smoking, being busy seems to make a lot of sense. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 20 2014

Stuck in the Shabbat Limbo

By at 4:02 pm

Doing Shabbat, my way

It was my second time meeting with Chana with the hopes of renting her Jerusalem apartment. I was in Israel on a research grant and following an ulpan (intensive Hebrew immersion course) in Jerusalem, had moved to Tel Aviv to be closer to my university. After just a few weeks of living by the water, I felt pulled back to Jerusalem.

Chana went through a checklist of the idiosyncrasies of the apartment. It would be furnished and I would not need to, nor would I be permitted to, bring my own bed. The school across the street could be loud at lunchtime. There was no dishwasher, of course, but I was welcome to use the laundry machine provided. And then almost as an afterthought she added, “Shabbat. Of course you keep Shabbat.”

“Well,” I started. And that was the beginning of the end. “I may turn on the lights here and there.”

“No. No turning on and off the lights. You must keep Shabbat.”

“But—,”

“No. No. I cannot. My friend rented to someone like you and first she had a car accident. Then…” her voice trailed off. “No. I cannot take the risk.” Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 14 2014

Turns Out Shabbat and Valentine’s Day Have a Lot in Common

By at 11:43 am

shabbat

Tonight I’m planning dinner by candlelight. It will engage all five senses, with attention lavished on the tiniest details, including our wedding china instead of Corelle, and soup that requires a trip to the butcher instead of just a can opener. They say oysters are an aphrodisiac, but I’m banking on the kneidelach my husband likes: the firmer, the better. Ah, February 14th.

Isn’t this how Shabbat should always go?

My kids’ preschool director sent an email out reminding parents that “we celebrate love and caring all year long, but we do not celebrate Valentine’s Day at school.” Last V-Day, when my son found a cupcake in his cubby with the Post-It note reading “Baked with love in our kosher home,” he thought it was a happy coincidence.

No valentines, no candy hearts–would Friday be any fun? Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 13 2014

Why I Added Some Jewish Learning to My Over-Scheduled Life

By at 12:15 pm

why I added Jewish learning to my life

I am undoubtedly overwhelmed, overextended, and stretched too thin on any given day, at any given moment. A 3-year-old son, almost 10-month-old twin daughters, a home to maintain, a small business we are trying to grow, a new photography venture, articles to write, a cooking club, and a few other activities all make my life insanely chaotic and wonderful.

Then why did I commit myself to one more thing? Because, if you notice the list above, there was nothing dedicated to being Jewish. I am committed to raising my children in a Jewish home, but was I doing enough to achieve that just by sending my son to the daycare at the local JCC? So when I was invited to join Chai Mitzvah, a women’s learning group at my synagogue, I jumped at the chance. Read the rest of this entry →

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